Today is my third installment in my “Stuff Fatty Loves” series, wherein I talk about bike-related things I can, without reservation, recommend. And I am pleased — no, delighted — to announce that today’s lovable thing is soft serve ice cream.
What? You wonder how soft serve ice cream is a bike-related item? Well, to you I say: pffff. There’s nothing in the world more bike-related than soft serve. Except perhaps a bike. But my point stands. Or it will stand, after I prop it up a bit.
Which I will do right now. In a roundabout way.
I live in Alpine, Utah, about as close to American Fork Canyon as you can without actually taking up residence in the little toll booth at the mouth of the canyon. This is not by accident, because I knew before I moved here exactly how perfectly suited to both road and mountain biking American Fork Canyon is.
However, I did not consider when moving here that American Fork Canyon is also home to the Timpanogos Cave National Monument.
But if I had considered that, I would have wanted to move here even more. Because the Timp Cave Visitor Center — which you must pass, whether you’re mountain biking or road riding — has a nice little concession stand.
And that concession stand has vanilla soft serve ice cream for sale. For $0.89, you can, on the way home from a mountain or road ride, get yourself a cool little coneful of heaven.
After you’ve been riding in the heat for hours, nothing in the world sounds quite so perfect as something cool, creamy, and caloric. You’re just sitting outside, relaxing in the shade, still near the mountain that you love, licking the ice cream fast enough to keep it from melting, but not so fast that it gives you an ice cream headache.
There have been times when, for the last half hour of a ride, all I can think about is that soft serve. Where I’ve been asking myself — with all the focus and intensity as if I’m considering the meaning of life — whether I’ve got a debit card or paper money with me. Or — failing that — whether I’ve got enough change in my vehicle to cover a cone.
The Beauty of Soft Serve
It’s possible you’re wondering what the big deal is. “It’s just ice cream,” you might claim. Or maybe even, “Soft serve isn’t even great ice cream — why get attached to soft serve in a world that contains Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk?”
Those are reasonable objections. And my responses to those objections are really what makes soft serve ice cream a bike-related thing I love.
I shall enumerate. Using numerals and everything.
- Consistency. Soft serve is — this should come as no surprise — soft. Either during or after a ride, when I’m really cooked, ice cream that is already practically pre-melted for me is perfect. Hard ice cream is too much effort; I prefer to just lazily lick around the cone. Plus, because it isn’t as cold as regular ice cream, it doesn’t freeze your taste buds. Which means you taste it better.
- The other consistency. No matter where you get it, soft serve is pretty much the same thing. No weird surprises. You can be riding anywhere, stop at an unfamiliar place and get a soft serve cone and be certain it’s going to be what you want.
- Near-ubiquity. Chances are, if you go riding past any fast food restaurant, you’ve got access to soft serve.
- The cone. Soft serve generally comes in a cake-style cone — the whiteish, flat-bottomed cones. I love these cones as much as the ice cream itself.
- The ritual. Everyone eats their soft serve in their own particular way, and I’m not here to judge your way. The important thing is, everyone really does eat their soft serve in their own way — the same way — every single time, and it’s a magnificent expression of self. As for myself — I know you’re curious — I go for sideways licks, spiraling from the top to the bottom of the cone, rotating the cone as I go, and always monitoring for drips onto the cone itself. Once I have gotten the ice cream perfectly level with the cone, I bite away the first level of the cone, then repeat the original process. Once the ice cream is level with the remainder of the cone, I bite off the top half. I then pop the bottom half into my mouth.
- Time. A soft serve cone takes about five minutes to eat — just about the right amount of time for a ride break or to cool down after a ride.
There are, sadly, some trouble spots with soft serve. The most important one for me is that my body has evidently decided that the primary purpose of dairy products is as a catalyst for fart production. I have resolved this problem to my satisfaction, however, by rationalizing to myself that as long as I have just one cone, my gassiness won’t be that bad.
Which I’m sure everyone agrees with wholeheartedly.
The next problem with soft serve is in quantity. Specifically, there are some ice cream servers who are too generous. Yes, I know it sounds weird, but I don’t like it when I buy a cone and get eight inches of ice cream towering precariously atop my cone. For one thing, that much ice cream is going to compound the gassiness problem. For another, the chances of my successfully eating that much soft serve without it becoming a melty mess is poor at best. And of course, the likelihood of the ice cream tower toppling from the cone is very high, which means I will — in a slow-motion split second — likely go from having too much ice cream to having too little.
Thus, I hereby declare that the correct dimensions for the soft serve above the cone are as follows:
- The diameter of the ice cream shall not exceed the diameter of the widest point of the cone by more than 1/2″. Nor shall it be any narrower than the widest point of the cone.
- The height of the ice cream shall be the same height as the cone itself, plus or minus 1/2″. Thus giving the soft serve cone a pleasing symmetry.
I do not, by the way, want to come off as some bourgeois soft serve snob; I fully recognize that serving a well-balanced soft serve cone takes talent and practice. Seeing a well-formed cone always makes me envious; any attempts I have ever made at serving soft serve have been miserable failures.
Vanilla vs. Chocolate vs. Twist
Most soft serve machines have three options: chocolate, vanilla, and twist (ie, a combination of chocolate and vanilla).
Allow me to recommend that — even if you really like chocolate — you always go with straight-up vanilla. I say this because while the vanilla flavor is in fact very vanilla, the chocolate flavor is not really very chocolate-y.
And buying twist just means that you’re wishy-washy and indecisive. Don’t buy twist.
In conclusion, I love soft serve ice cream, and am satisfied that I have managed to — somewhat weakly perhaps — tie it to cycling.